andante con moto

Mine meet the painting man’s eyes, “you read too much.” He says. He used to be a jazz musician. I crook a smile, embellish a nod, and refill my right ear with Mendelssohn. He stares agape for a moment–saturnine eyes droop, catch themselves, then fix upright again. He takes a thin brush from robin’s egg-colored water and continues his piece.

Violins drift in quiescence, flute-float and reach a surfeit of colorful bassoons and trumpets before they tumble back to simple notes. The blue-haired girl behind the jazz player has buttons in the back of her shirt. She reads andante con moto and flicks her wrist as she goes. She turns a page and the jazz player looks askance, first at her, then me, then back to his work.

I want to feel something, but the words of this story are so far flat. From the window, a boy wanders in circles as he takes pulls from a cigarette, and I let go a sigh. I shouldn’t be reading this much.

I should be writing.

I should be writing.
I should be writing.

A strong wind knocks the smoking boy and his smoke-line off-balance, the first of the season. The Mendelssohn piece ends. I should read to something else; something lighter. I should write. I watch the jazz player use a toothpick to dot black on his canvas. The blue-haired girl’s wrist twirls and dances to the words of her paperback. I pack my bag and leave.

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A Palliative

At this point, I don’t know what it’ll take. Do I need a new computer? Should I give the typewriter another go? Handwriting has its merits, but God knows I don’t have the patience. And then there’s this thing—a netbook. I’m staring deadpan at you right now. The words this thing conjures up are saturnine, they ain’t mine. Not to say I don’t have a certain muted punch to my offerings, just that my own irascible writings are much different from the Sturm und Drang that drip, drip, drip out in these Google documents.

What the fuck are you talking about?

Somebody needs to save me. Chuck this laptop into the river and let my hands roam other white plains for a while. There’s the rub. Self-masturbatory? Definitely. Ugh.

So here’s the deal, right. I didn’t expect what happened to happen, even if I did write about it. Eating those words, looking at empty spaces between my own. I’m my own Nostradamus, and I could kick myself for not seeing things sooner—or listening to myself, or editing even once or…or, shit I don’t know. Eat those words. It all comes full circle.

But she’s gone now. And there ain’t a word in this language, or any other, that’s gonna change a damned thing. Do I want it changed? 

How do I make love stay?

Don’t know. Or I do. Seven years is a long time. A long itch. A stretch. I’ve come out, abruptly, tabula rasa. Except there’s etching everywhere—but that’s how I feel. Empty? New? Can’t put a finger on it, they’re too busy plugging away, desperately looking for a loose word or two. Catch as catch can. Whatever comes, I’ll take it. Except, nothing. The words whiz on by.

Ah shit, I’m sorry for this. I’m working hard on things. For what? I don’t know. My stories are important to me, even if they mean little. Or worse, a whole lot. Too much to bare.

Don’t let this be it, please. I can’t let it be. I’m drunk. It’s a beautiful night. I’ve been listening to more classical music these days: Bach, Debussy, Handel, Schubert, Chopin, Paganini, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky…I’m calling on you dudes. Help a guy out. I can be romantic, too. Read some of my earlier stuff; it’ll resonate, I swear.

More research. That’s the thing. Dive into words, into studies, and hope your own words don’t drown. Feel that pressure? Deep, man, reeeaaallll deep.

What’s happened to me? Who the hell am I? A phoenix? More like its’ ashes.

I’ll figure it out. Always do.

Until next time. Who knows when that’ll be…

Chelsea’s Gift (Edit 3: 3 of 3)

[Chelsea’s Gift (Edit 3: 2 of 3)]

“Who are you, child?” A voice, deep and forceful, rumbled below. Its echo rattled Chelsea’s teeth and shot pain throughout her skull. Frozen, her arms became anchors dropping to her sides.

“What are you doing out here?” The shadow rose in a vortex, water fleeing before it reached light. When the shadow took form, Chelsea found herself before an immense whitetip—a shark known to Chelsea as a particularly nasty breed who makes little matter of eating shipwrecked survivors or women tossed from the sky. A rough fin stung the soles of her feet, slapping against them to prop her up.

“I…was…I was looking…” She stumbled through quivering lips.

“Your words are as choppy as these waters!” The whitetip guffawed, impressed by its own cleverness. “Speak.” It demanded.

“Dolphins.” She dribbled. At once Chelsea felt all her accomplishments, dreams, and expectations fade to the bottom of the ocean floor.

“A-ha! Dolphins? Why would you swim so far out here to see…oohh.” The whitetip nodded in silent settlement.

“I know your story after all. The girl who came from the sky and left with a wave—and here she is before me! Oh, what fortune indeed.” A slow grin unveiled mashed flesh between hundreds of large daggers.

“Tell me, girl of waves, what is that in your hands?” Its steel nose nudged Chelsea’s conch shell and cracked it, a ravine that slaughtered its complex details.

“It’s…dolphins gave it to me. It brings me happiness.” Chelsea held little command over her words, focused instead on thwarting her own reflection in the whitetip’s large, cloudy eyes.

“Well, what a gift! And how exactly does it bring happiness?”

“I listen…”

“I enjoy happiness. May I have a listen?” Her entranced arm stretched outward, barely able to hold the shell any longer. The whitetip studied its sound with black eyes staring into the sky.

“Well I only seem to hear the ocean. Which is to say, the ocean is the only thing I ever hear. So perhaps this shell does bring happiness, for a shark should surely find happiness when wet.”

Helpless in mind and speech, Chelsea responded as she did to all others. “It’s the one thing I never hear in the shell.”

Again the shark smirked. “And yet it is far out in the ocean that you find yourself today.”

Settled dread mixed with years of conviction stirred deep within her. Everybody would know the power within her shell, this shark and all others—they’d recognize her importance. Like a flood her childhood story forced its way into the shark: dolphins and Marine Biology, beaches and despair. The shark bobbed along, stinging her feet with each thoughtless slap, digesting each word in silence. When she finished, it laughed heartily.

“Such foolishness!” It chided. “An enchanted conch shell? And for how long have you obsessed over this?” His barbed words stung as the dolphin’s soothed.

“It seems to me, child, that this shell’s enchantment is yet to be dredged. It seems to me you pursued your own desires before anything this shell offered.”

“Do you know where you are, child?” Its fin cut Chelsea’s feet as it slipped away and swam in circles around her.

“It seems to me you’ve guided yourself back here, child. Why even bother listening to the shell at all? Wouldn’t that just fill you with pain? Knowing how incredibly wrong you are?”

He tossed her a snarled grin and dove deep below before she could reply. Alone, Chelsea began realizing how true the shark’s words were. Her fascination did turn into an obsession. She did bring herself back here.

“The shark is right.” Chelsea thought, “I gave up everything for a childish memory I couldn’t even remember correctly.”

Sadness became her face and heart, longing for a different outcome. She stared at her cracked conch shell no longer moved by its intricate grooves or decorative shape. “What has this brought me? What do I have left?” Without a dolphin to vilify, Chelsea bowed her neck and whispered a curse into the shell.

Water shattered, exposing the whitetip. “Here, a gift—like your dolphin’s.” It nudged its steel snout towards her.

“I don’t see anything.” She said, confused.

“Precisely!” The shark rolled, its grizzled laughter filling the highest blue to bottommost black.

“Nothing!” It bellowed, “And this nothing is just as precious as your shell!”

Again proud of its cleverness, the shark continued in amusement for its own satisfaction, “My gift is just as enchanting as the dolphin’s child—more so, maybe! Though perhaps not as intricately detailed. Mine comes without delay—the nothing I gave you presents your past, present, and future at once, drifting before you now!”

“There’s nothing to misinterpret. Nothing to bend and break for your own selfish gain. It provides nothing to hold on to when unsure of yourself—nothing to listen to, to prove wrong. To make wrong. And most wonderfully, it provides nothing to save you from me.”

Chelsea gasped and released the conch shell as her arms and legs struggled to swim. When she finally found her stroke, the whitetip appeared coasting beside her.

“How foolish! How splendid!” It roared, “You’ve certainly been guided, child—to your own bitter end.” It watched the color leave her face and smiled as she struggled so far away from everything. Once bored, the whitetip opened its monstrous mouth and devoured her before disappearing below crimson waves, happy and full from its fortunate find.

Above, gulls cawed and laughed.